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Spring Sunrise, Towers of the Virgins, Zion NP

Posted by
Don Smith (California, United States) on 6 April 2011 in Landscape & Rural.


Spring Big Sur Workshop - 4th Annual Wildflowers and Color - April 17-20, 2011 (Workshop Sold Out)
Springtime in Lake Tahoe and the Mokelumne Wilderness Photo Workshop - May 14-17, 2011 (space available)
Northern California - 3rd Annual Redwoods and Mendocino Photo Workshop - May 23-26, 2011 (space available)
Second Annual Garden Isle and Tropical Paradise - Kauai Photo Workshop - July 8-12, 2011 (only 4 spots remaining)
Summer Big Sur - 3rd Annual Mystical Fog and Colorful Headlands Photo Workshop - August 23-26, 2011 (space available)
Full Moon Over Red Rock, Arches, and Canyons - 3rd Annual Arches/Canyonlands Photo Workshop - October 9-13, 2011 (only 1 spot left).
Bryce Canyon Hoodoos and Zion Fall Color - 1st Annual Bryce/Zion Photo Workshop - November 1-5, 2011 (2 spots remaining).
3rd Annual Magic Light, Moonlight, and Pfeiffer Beach Arch Big Sur Winter Workshop - January 8-11, 2012 (space available)
4th Annual Northern Arizona Workshop: Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend and Sedona - April 23-27, 2012 (just added)
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Scouting trips can oftentimes be a lot of fun, but can also be extremely frustrating if the locations prove not worthy of inclusion in a group workshop. Many factors go in to scouting starting first and foremost with a lot of homework by yours truly prior to departing for the trip. This homework includes hours of internet searches, phone calls to other photographers who have gone before me, and searches through numerous photography and guide books on the area. I make an A-list of supposed can't miss locations, and a B-list of back-up locations.

Just back from a trip to both Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks (the locations I am using for my upcoming 1st Annual Bryce Canyon Hoodoos and Zion Fall Colors Photo Workshop, I had a location known as The Towers of the Virgins included as a can't-miss sunrise location.

Located just behind the Zion Museum, this is an extremely popular sunrise location because the iconic formations (left to right: West Temple, Sundial, Temple of the Virgin and Alter of Sacrifice) appear to glow as the approaching sun strikes these red-rock formations and sets them ablaze with warm orange light.

I was fortunate to have a field of wildflowers in front of me making the composition a no-brainer. My friend Pierre and I had pre-scouted this location the day before and knew exactly where we wanted to set our tripods the following morning.

Obviously the uneven horizon line and extreme contrast (I recall metering 9 stops difference), required that I use HDR to control the contrast. My standard method of exposing such a scene calls for bracketing with my shutter only. For this image, I used Nik's HDR Efex Pro and allowed the software to do its thing. I generally start with the Realistic Preset and I want a somewhat flat image to begin with, then I take the image into Photoshop and work it as I would any other RAW file.

I used three other Nik Software products all found in their incredible package known as Color Efex Pro 3.0. To add some much needed contrast, I used their Tonal Contrast filter. Next, to bring the overall image to life, I used the Brilliance/Warmth filter adjusting just the Brilliance slider. Finally, I brought out the colorful foreground using the Foliage filter.

In using all these filters, I did not want to mess with the warm light on the rock formations nor the blue sky, so I masked them out. Nik makes this simple for me by applying the needed affect on a layer that already includes a mask. I simply apply the affect to the entire image then brush out the areas I don't want - simple!

I should note that all of these affects can be done in Photoshop alone but they are very time-consuming and sometimes difficult to apply. Nik Software makes the process simple and efficient.

This location will be included in my upcoming workshop unless we have a heavy cloud day. If you would like to join us, please send me an email or click the link above to sign-up online.

If you are interested in purchasing any of the Nik Software, please use my code listed below to receive a 15% discount!

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